Mindfulness Moments: Cooperate or compete at work place?

A good friend recently asked  – how do I cooperate with my team members to achieve the team’s goal while simultaneously competing with them to get a better performance review rating for myself?

This seems like a dichotomy, doesn’t it? But it need not be. Both are two distinct and unconnected opportunities for self improvement only. Let me explain.


Do I love performance reviews or what? [Source]

Performance reviews are fundamentally nothing more than a charade. But they do provide one use. They offer a rational platform for allocating the meagre salary increase budget among employees.

  • Employee performance is a continuous thing. So, a good manager must monitor, guide, coach, strengthen or appreciate employee’s performance on a continuous basis.
  •           A good leader knows his or her people better than their mothers do and cares for them even more  – Sathya Sai Baba

Performance reviews in most companies are done annually. They lack the immediate and continuous care an employee can benefit from. Only when the employee is well cared for, will there be performance excellence in the true sense of the term.

  • My promotions, transfers, demotions and termination are done not based so much on annual performance reviews but on the organization’s changing needs and the preferential likes/dislikes of the boss.

The fact of the matter is, I can control only my performance – not its review.

  • How well do I perform, really?  I must seek ways to improve my performance continuously. To do that, I need to compete with myself, not with others.
  • “Win from within” says Usain Bolt, the Olympic champion.
  • Work done well is a step in peace. Yogah karmasu kowsalam – Bhagavad Gita [2.50]

When I do my job to the best of my ability and not be concerned with how the result turns out, how can I not be but peaceful and happy?.

Instead of dreading the annual performance review,  I can train myself to – however weird it may sound – actually welcome it. I can accept the comments that have merit in improving my ability and reject the rest without a bother. And then move on to continue doing the best job I can, for my own peace of mind.


Is this me? Really? [Source]

A bad or unfair performance review, especially one with a difficult-to-get along boss, can be unsettling. If this happens, it is time to change the boss or the company. Or go inwards to “win from within”.  Performance reviews, both bad and good, are nothing more than passing clouds. What is constant is my inherent ability to inspire myself to continuously learn and do better, without being agitated about the results. The results come of their own accord  – no point in sweating about it.

In short, performance reviews are not worth losing sleep over.



Some of us love team work, don’t we?[Source]

Team work, on the other hand, is a gold mine of opportunities to develop the skills of togetherness and empathy with others.  How do I harmonize the different opinions, working styles and personality pulls among the participants? How do I learn to let go of my own desire to control results and others’ behavior? How do I neutralize time pressure? How do I navigate through the varying levels of competencies and contributions among the team members? How do I develop and sustain a balanced mind-set in the face of provocation? And so on… Team work offers myriad mindfulness moments to expand my heart, to care for and serve others.

Truly, no man is an island. Man thrives only in the spirit of “togetherness”. A favorite vedic prayer of mine exhorts this truth:

May we live together. May we grow together. May we achieve great things together. May we shine in the resplendence of togetherness. May there be no disharmony among us.

saha naavatu. saha nau bhunaktu, saha veeryam karavaavahai. tejasvinaavadheetamastu. maa vidvishaamahai.


“Togetherness” – Part of one body [Source]

When I work in a team with this spirit of “togetherness”, regardless of whether others approach it the same way or not , then I’m able to cooperate with others in a natural way, much like the flow of a gentle breeze. Then the differences in the working styles, personalities and opinions of the team members impact me less. In addition to enthusiastically fulfilling my responsibilities, I’m then able to truly work for everyone’s success, not just mine.

When everyone in the team fulfills his/her role well in this spirit of togetherness, results can be fantastic indeed.


Wow! Team work at its best. [Source]

Life is largely team work only. If I engage life with the attitude of “togetherness”, then it is a peaceful step I’ve taken.  Team work is the “24 x7 fitness club” in my life to develop my mental muscles, expand my heart and become better at being “together”.

So, do I cooperate or compete at work place? I should do both. Not only at work place but throughout life itself.

  • Cooperate with others to help them succeed.
  • Compete with myself to do better.

Critical thinking



The Thinker [Source]

35 to 48.

That is how many thoughts I think per minute! Every two seconds, I go through one thought and well on my way into another one. The next second brings an additional load of thoughts. And so on.

Which one of these thoughts is really important? How can I weave a critical path through this maze of myriad thoughts? How do I manage the onslaught of the seemingly never-ending thoughts?

Critical thinking helps me do that.



To think critically is not to be critical of others, myself or the stuff of life. It is not picking an argument for the fun of it. Rather, it is the ability to think clearly, rationally and decide what to do, what to believe.

The World Economic Forum in its January 2016 report “Future of Jobs” tells me that critical thinking skill will be one of the top three skills in demand within five years. The mind-boggling advancements taking place in areas like artificial intelligence, 3D printing, nanotechnology etc will demand critical thinking ability to integrate and leverage these developments.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution [Source]

Can I identify the importance of these  various ideas and sort out which one is relevant, which one not? Can I detect inconsistencies and errors in my reasoning? Can I solve problems systematically? Can I logically connect the various dots and get a peep into the future?

According to Critical Thinking Web,  thinking skills such as these that are based on sound logic and data will be very important in my life, starting now.

My sense is this sort of critical thinking skill is only like a super structure of a building. It is only as good as the foundation it rests on. Thinking exclusively on the basis of rationality, data and logic can take me only so far. I must resort to wisdom also. I need to ensure my rationality and logic, however good they may be, rest firmly on a larger and firmer substratum. I need to ensure that I don’t mistakenly overlook an important data in front of me. I cannot afford to let an important thought in my mind pass me by and lose it.

Critical thinking is more than the lucidity of logic, the rhythm of rationality or the dance of data.

Critical thinking is thinking that calms the mind first. 

Only a calm mind gives the clarity I need to build on data, logic and rationality properly.

How to think in a way that calms the mind? Bhagavad Gita shows a facile way.

I must learn to do my work without being obsessed with its result. The result will come of its own accord whether I desire it or not. Decoupling from my desire to achieve a certain result but focusing on doing the work well instead calms my mind. As I practice doing all work that come my way in this manner, I learn a very useful work-skill. This skill calms my mind instantly and gives me eternal peace itself .

karma phala thyagaat santim anantaram [Bhagvad Gita 12.12]

Critical thinking is thinking with the heart.

It is the heart that reaches the goal. Follow the heart. A pure heart seeks beyond the intellect. It gets inspired. – Sathya Sai Baba

Heart-based thinking seeks the well being of others over mine. It revels in sacrifice. This expansive outlook not only pacifies my mind but actually rejuvenates my life and work skills. It simplifies the solving of complex problems. Logic, rationality and the understanding of data and their analysis then fall into place easily.

Critical thinking is thinking that results in a calm mind and an expansive heart.

Critical thinking is thinking that gives genuine happiness. It opens the irrepressible joy of life that is mine for the asking.


Critical thinking is togetherness  [Source]

Critical thinking is the thinking that seeks togetherness. In the comfort and solace of togetherness lies peace of mind.

In the 50000 or so thoughts that pass through my mind in a day, the ones that promote togetherness are the ones I select and hold on to. Selecting critical thoughts to hold on to is vital to developing critical thinking skills. In togetherness lies all success and growth. The vedic prayer that has been a guiding beacon in my life says

Let us live together. Let us grow together. Together let us achieve great things.

saha naavavatu, saha now bhunaktu. saha veeryam karavaavahai

What can be more critical than this?



The art of forgiving

Life has unforgiving rules. When I disobey them, I pay a price. Life also has a tremendous forgiving nature. When I obey its rules, it forgives all past transgressions and puts me happily in its lap.

My sense is we all have been let down by someone or another in our lives; or been harmed “unfairly” by others.



When I’m deceived, let down or harmed, I have been taught not to go for “tit for tat”; not to get angry at others for their deceit, not to blame myself for my naivete, not to quarrel or blow up the situation.  I’ve been told instead to apply the balm of forgiveness.

Forgiveness seems to be a big deal in life. It can mean so many  different things.




When I forgive, do I pardon the harm committed?

To be able to pardon I must have the requisite authority which I don’t have. Mistake-bound myself, what authority can I claim to pardon the mistakes of others? No, I cannot forgive this way.

When I forgive, do I let go the harm committed and not hold on to it?

The Greek word for forgiveness, aphesis,  actually means “to let go”. Letting go of the harm done is a beautiful thing to do. But is the harm present in other’s action or in my reaction to it or both?  How do I let it go? I’m unable to forgive this way because the pathway is not clear enough.

When I forgive, do I condone a harmful action?

Absolutely not. Condoning it only breeds further harmful actions.

When I forgive, do I pretend the harmful action never happened?

No.  Whenever I pretend, I cannot be happy.

When I’m harmed, deceived, let down or treated unfairly, I must meet what happened head on and act in a dharmic way. I must do this for my own happiness and peace of mind.

First, I need to understand the real reason for these hits in life. Kulasekara Azhwar in Mukunda Mani Maalai tells me why these happen.



Whatever is happening and whatever will happen are the reactions of my past actions

Yat yat bhavyam bhavtu bhagavan poorva karmaanu roopam

That every action has an equal and opposite reaction is not a law limited only to the realm of physics. It is an inviolable law that supports and sustains the entire cosmos. It controls all aspects of life – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

When I hit my head against a door, the reaction in the form of pain appears immediately. When I eat stale food, the reaction in the form of indigestion appears in a few hours. One bout of anger weakens my body to such an extent that its reaction lasts for three months. The reaction to one cruel word I utter takes a life time, and sometimes even longer, to manifest itself.

The harm that is done to me, the deceit and the conning I experience at the hands of others, the unfairness I grumble about – all these are manifested reactions of my past actions. When and how they appear depends on how I did what when. [The past includes this birth and all previous births.]

By the same token, if my past actions were good and beneficial, their reactions, whether they appear promptly or delayed, will also be equally good and beneficial.

This is the inviolable law of life. I do good, I reap good. I do bad, I reap bad. I do cruelty, I reap cruelty. I do harm, I reap harm. I do compassion and kindness, I reap compassion and kindness.

The truth of the matter is, I get what I deserve.

With this understanding, I can now receive the harmful action done to me, the humiliation showered on me and the let downs by people I trusted  – all in humility and worship. They are nothing but forms and shapes of my own past mistakes. They remind me to be careful not to repeat those mistakes again in life. They teach both practical living skills (yukti, smartness) and practical life skills (bhakti, devotion).

To improve my living skills:   When deceived, I learn to be careful; when harmed by bad company, I learn to run away from bad company; when humiliated, I learn to reduce my ego.

To improve my life skills: I need to surrender the harm, the humiliation and the seeming unfairness of it all to the prompting of Love within me. When I suffer from remorse and guilt for harming others, I surrender that too to the Divine prompting of Love within me. Surrendering this way, I focus on strengthening my loving outlook, come what may; on becoming more of a loving person every day. I also evaluate what harm I’ve done to others – if I have slighted and offended them, if I’ve let them down in their time of need. These life’s knocks strengthen my determination to conduct my life better so I become a better person – a person who doesn’t harm others.

There are so many lessons that a hurt, a slight or a harm coming my way teach me. If I’m open to receive them and learn from them, I can become a better person.

I’ve heard the prayer, “Forgive them, O Lord, for they know not what they do”. But my grandmother’s prayer hits the mark better I think – “O Lord, grant a good bent of mind to all and the wisdom to do good to others always”. The “all” in this prayer includes me of course.

This good mind set is a wise one. It avoids bad harmful company. It runs away from cruelty and bad habits. It does not hurt others or itself. It does not let down others in times of need. It humiliates none and respects all. It seeks the company of the good only. It seeks  Love. Seeking that it spread the fragrance of Love only.

Forgiveness is not where it is at in my life. Love is.




Ramayana in Lanka: Vibhishana’s coronation


Sunset at Colombo is a symphony of nature.The coconut tree leaf delightfully draws the enchanting dance of the breeze. The ocean waves rise to speak the sprightly yearning of the restless water. The open sky decorates the wide space with the most wondrous colors that eyes can see. All bid au revoir silently to the setting sun in a most beautiful and enchanting way.

Mesmerized by the sheer indescribable beauty of it, I too joined the natural elements and said au revoir to the setting sun in my mind. I didnt move from my place nor did I take my eyes off the sun. I stood riveted till the sun disappeared fully and till the horizon too, following suit, disappeared slowly and reluctantly.

The next day, still reveling in the memories of this soul stirring welcome experience at Colombo, I travelled to Kelaniya, about an hour drive away. This is the place where, commanded by Rama,  Lakshmana coronated Vibhishana as the emperor of Lanka about a million years ago.


A clean temple with a subdued attractive charm has been built at this location commemorating this event.


A captivating recessed sculpture in the temple wall depicting the coronation welcomed me as I entered the temple from the parking lot.


The temple had other interesting sculptures including a Vinayakar seated on an over sized mouse.

Then I got to see the coronation mural at close quarters.


Vibhishana’s coronation

The temple has been built on the banks of river Kelani (Kalyani in Valmiki Ramayana?). Vibhishana’s palace was on the banks of this river. Hence the coronation took place here.


The Kelani river


Entrance to the temple from the river side.

The light brown building immediately behind the white arches is the temple built to commemorate Vibhishana’s coronation. The reddish tiled roof and the white dome are part of a Buddhist temple at this location.

I was told that Buddhist scriptures record the fact that Gautama Buddha himself visited this place, eight years after his enlightenment. The Buddhist temple was built after that. This temple is known as Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. It houses a collection of scintillating paintings depicting the history of Sri Lanka. This temple is an important pilgrimage place for Buddhists from around the world.



Near the entrance to the Buddhist temple


An elephant at the temple, near the Kelani river. An inexhaustible sight!

Kelaniya was our last stop in Sri Lanka. As we returned to Colombo to head out the next morning, I couldn’t help think how fortunate I was to visit and spend a few days in this God’s country. The lush and rich greeneries, clean surroundings, welcoming and kind hospitality, friendly and contented people – all make Sri Lanka a truly special place on earth.

I know I’ll return here. Till then “au revoir“.


Please read the following blogs also. Thank you for visiting and for allowing me to share these experiences with you.

December 31 2016. Ramayana in Lanka

January 2 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: Hanuman lands in Lanka

January 4 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: The place where Hanuman met Sita

January 7 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. The Fire Test. Agni Pareekshai.

January 8 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. When Indrajit became almost invincible

January 15 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. Hanuman takes a leap from Lanka


Ramayana in Lanka: Hanuman takes a leap from Lanka

After taking leave of Sita, Hanuman climbed on top of the Arishta mountain and jumped across the ocean to return to India. This mountain is in the Ramboda area about an hour drive north of  Nuwara Eliya en route Kandy.


That heroic monkey, the destroyer of enemies, went on top of a huge mountain called Arishta… Then he leapt across the ocean traveling from south to north” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Sundara kandam. Chapter 56.9, 25]

That mountain was full of Padma trees with green foliage…the loud sounds of the mountain waters … the tall trees rising on it…the moving dark clouds of autumn…its line of innumerable foothills…its many scattered peaks…numerous species of trees…[Extracts from the description of the Arishta mountain from Valmiki Ramayanam, Sundara Kandam, Chpater 56, 10-21]

The Ramboda hill range reminded me of this description of the Arishta hill from Valmiki Ramayanam.

Ramboda is truly a place of idyllic beauty

Sri Bhakta Hanuman temple has been very appropriately built in Ramboda by the Chinmaya Mission of Sri Lanka to mark the fact that Hanuman was here.

A commanding idol of Hanuman shining in the true humility of courage, bravery, commitment, perseverance, dedication, devotion and surrender beckoned me from inside the temple. As I went inside, an elaborate worship per scriptural injunctions was underway. Vedic mantras uttered to perfect pronunciation welcomed me, filling me and the environment with thrilling sacred vibrations. The physical beauty of the mountain range outside the temple blended effortlessly with the devotional beauty of the Hanuman inside temple. It was an experience of sacredness.

Sri Bhakta Hanuman Temple, Ramboda

The temple is an important place to visit…if you can put it on your itinerary.

I also heard from the local people in another part of Sri Lanka that Hanuman who grew to a gigantic size in preparation for the leap across the ocean, had one foot in Ramboda and the other in Kurunegela area. He then leapt to Triconmalee area before jumping across the ocean [roughly as shown below]


Did Hanuman jump across the ocean directly from Ramboda and Kurunegala while returning from Lanka? Or did he go to Triconmalee as the local legend has it?

Valmiki Ramayanam does mention Hanuman grew in size to gigantic proportion in preparation for the leap. It is quite possible he stood on the mountain covering the distance between today’s Kurunegala and Ramboda. This distance is about 60 miles. Valmiki does say the mountain range had a width of ten yojanas [Sundara Kandam 56.33] or about 80 miles!

Valmiki Ramayanam mentions Hanuman jumped from south to north. I suspect he would have returned directly in the shortest distance possible in view of the urgency of the message he was carrying. He in all likelihood did not make a detour and go to Triconmalee on the way back.

This is all assuming the land masses of Indian and Sri Lanka were not much different a million years ago than they are today. This is a big IF and is not a good assumption.

This intellectual quest not withstanding, the heart does speak at Ramboda. It speaks the language of faith. I had a sense of awe that I was standing on the land that bear the footmarks of a devotee extraordinaire.

Ramboda took me back a million years in a trice.


Are you enjoying these posts on Ramayana in Lanka, dear reader? If so, please see all related posts:

December 31 2016. Ramayana in Lanka

January 2 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: Hanuman lands in Lanka

January 4 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: The place where Hanuman met Sita

January 7 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. The Fire Test. Agni Pareekshai.

January 8 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. When Indrajit became almost invincible

February 17 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. Vibhishana’s coronation.

Ramayana in Lanka: When Indrajit became almost invincible

During the war, Indrajit briefly went away undetected to a placed called Nikumbhila and undertook a severe penance to obtain powers that would make him invincible.

Vibhishana came to know about this. He exhorted Rama and Lakshmana, ” Indrajit will reach Nikhumbila today and will complete his yagna. Upon completing it, he’ll obtain special powers and cannot be defeated by anyone. So, we must proceed to Nikhumbila immediately and stop Indrajit from completing his yajna” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 84. 14-16]

The place where Indrajit undertook this penance, Nikumbhila, is called Gayatri Peetam today. It is on the outskirts of Nuwara Eliya.


A compact and clean Siva temple, Sri Lankatheeswarar Temple, stands at this place today exuding serenity and spreading peace. The Siva lingam in this temple is actually growing in size, the growth having been witnessed by many. The temple is also unique in that it is the only temple in Sri Lanka dedicated exclusively to Gayatri Mata. Incessant recorded chanting of Gayatri mantram is played in this temple. Hence the name Gayatri Peetam for this temple.



The fact that this was the place that was sanctified by the penance of Indrajit was discovered by Gayatri Siddhar Sri Murugesa Maharishi during his deep spiritual meditation. This was later confirmed by several rishis in South India including Sivabala Yogi Maharaj. The lingam was installed by him at this location as per the directions received during meditation in 1970.

Genesis information of the temple. Temple Notice Board

Temple entrance road and vicinity. Nuwara Eliya can be seen in the background

Sri Lanka has many sacred places, sanctified by the footsteps of divinity and devotees, and by the sound vibrations of holy mantras. Gayatri Peetam is one such place.

Please see related posts:

December 31 2016. Ramayana in Lanka

January 2 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: Hanuman lands in Lanka

January 4 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: The place where Hanuman met Sita

January 7 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. The Fire Test. Agni Pareekshai.

January 15 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. Hanuman takes a leap from Lanka

February 17 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. Vibhishana’s coronation

Ramayana in Lanka: The Fire Test. Agni Pareekshai

The Fire Test, Agni Pareekshai,  that took place when Sita entered the fire of her own volition, was in fact not a test at all. It was a demonstration of the result for all of humanity to see for all time to come.

This Fire Test occurred in the area that is called Diurumwela, Nugathalawa , today. It is about an hour and half drive from Nuwara Eliya, in the central region of Sri Lanka.

With doubts and suspicions ruling its day, the human mind finds faith to be shaky at best. It is easier to doubt Sita’s chastity in captivity rather than repose total faith in it. Accommodating this human weakness – the propensity to doubt not only by the people who lived then but also by those who were to come for all time in the future – the  “test by fire” took place to alleviate the pains of doubt and to strengthen the human faith.


Test by Fire  – A painting at Diurumwela

Rama mentioned to Sita, “You are endowed with a charming exterior and are so soul-ravishing that Ravana, detaining you in captivity, would not have endured your separation for long” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 115. 24]

Sita was shell-shocked on hearing these words. She turned to Lakshmana and said,

“Build a pyre for me. It is the only anti-dote against this calamity. I no longer desire to live  in the midst of such false accusations. I’ll enter the fire which is the course appropriate for me now that my husband has publicly renounced me and is not pleased with my virtues” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 116. 17,18]

She then prayed to the pyre built by Lakshmana before entering it.

“If my heart has never turned away from Rama;  if I’ve never been unfaithful in act, thought and speech; if the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind and the earth – all of them know me to be of good character, then may the fire protect me from all sides” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 116. 25-28]

Then she entered the fire with a fearless mind.


People’s reaction on seeing  Sita entering the fire. Painting at Diurumwela

The huge gathering present there witnessed the resplendent Sita entering the fire, rushing into it like the offering of the consummate ghee. All the women present there screamed on seeing her falling in to the fire like an unbroken stream of ghee. A loud cry rose from the people present there [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 116.  30-36]

The god of fire then arose from the fire carrying Sita in his arms and spoke to Rama, ” Here is your Sita. No sin exists in her” [Valmiki Ramayanam. Yuddha kandam. Chapter 118. 5]

Then Rama said, “I know Sita to be undivided in her affection to me. I had no doubt in my mind. Ravana could not harm her. She is protected by her own moral power and would have burnt him to ashes. But to stop the murmurs of suspicion of all people in all worlds  for all time to come is the reason I kept quiet as she entered the fire”


Sita Temple and Buddhist Shrine, Diurumwela

Today, Sri Sita Devi Foundation at Diurumwela is running  a Sita temple and a Buddhist temple at the place where the Fire Test happened a million years ago.

Ramayana Paintings at the Sita temple, Diurumwela


The soul-stirring giving and receiving of the ring and the crest jewel (choodaamani) – Painting at Diurumwela


Hanuman – carved from a single mango tree bark. Diurumwela


Two fine hosts at Diurumwela – happy, hospitable and most kind

Buddhist shrine. Diurumwela

About 82 % of Sri Lankans follow the religion of Buddhism. They have very aptly built a Buddhist shrine at this location. The Buddhist temple signifies the sanatana dharma teaching Sita demonstrated with the Fire Test. Her conduct transcends all religions. It resonates with the core of every human being. It is the love for God. The Fire Test illustrates three key teachings of Buddhism.

Buddham saranam gachchaami  – Follow the buddhi, the pull that discriminates between the temporary and the permanent, in life. Discriminate and seek the permanent. This is the path of enlightenment.

Dhammam saranam gachchaami. Follow the pull of the eternal and the unchanging support in life.  This is dharmam. This is Love itself.

Sangam saranam gachchaami. Merge with that Love.

Recollection of Sita and the Fire Test brought the cooling comfort of Divine Love to my mind. As I bid adieu to this sacred place reluctantly, I was able to see how beautiful the world around me really is, how blessed life indeed is.

img_2910img_2931img_2933Ashoka flower

Please see related posts:

December 31 2016. Ramayana in Lanka

January 2 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: Hanuman lands in Lanka

January 4 2017. Ramayana in Lanka: The place where Hanuman met Sita

January 8 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. When Indrajit became almost invincible

January 15 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. Hanuman takes a leap from Lanka

February 17 2017. Ramayana in Lanka. Vibhishana’s coronation.